Race at Roxbury CC

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick named Gerald Chertavian, who founded a job training program, to chair the board of troubled Roxbury Community College, which has been plagued by mismanagement and scandal. A Boston “activist” claims only blacks should run a majority-black college. (Only 48 percent of students say they’re black, but there seems to be a lot of decline-to-state students.)

An Iowa community college has paid nearly $14,000 to settle a free-speech lawsuit by a student who was barred from handing out flyers criticizing college funding for a conference on gay youth.

Boy Scouts lose ‘confident boyishness’

The Boy Scouts will accept gay Scouts — but not gay Scoutmasters. I’d bet parents will be OK with that and critics will not.

Founded in 1910 to promote “self-reliance, patriotism, courage, morality, outdoor ruggedness, and all-around manliness,” Boy Scouts of America has changed along with American culture, write Brett and Kate McKay on The Art of Manliness. 

They cite Kathleen Arnn’s comparison of the 1911 BSA handbook with the modern version published in 2009, which lacks the “verve, punch, and adventurous spirit—the manliness—of the original handbook.”

The Scouts have lost some of the confident American boyishness that loves heroes and makes for heroes.

. . . Whereas the first edition imparts tough-minded common sense, the 12th edition brims with cautionary tales and safety checklists, emphasizing timidity rather than adventure.

Merit badge requirements used to require action, write the McKays. Now they require “more thinking than doing.”

In the 1911 handbook, earning each badge involved the completion of a short list of one-sentence requirements. Modern badge requirements, on the other hand, run to as many as ten paragraph-long sections, the first of which is always a discussion of the need to discuss safety considerations with one’s leader. The gardening badge for example, requires the Scout to discuss with his counselor what hazards he might encounter if he happened to unfortunately plant his tomatoes near a beehive.

. . . The hands-on tasks are now tucked into long lists of requirements that ask the scout to thoroughly Review/Describe/Explain/Illustrate/Demonstrate the underlying principles and context of the badge’s subject matter before trying their hand at it.

The 1911 camping merit badge required Scouts to sleep out for 50 nights, build a fire without matches, pitch a tent without help and construct a raft.  The modern badge requires 20 nights of camping, pitching a tent with another Scout and a great deal of making checklists, creating plans and describing camping guidelines, equipment and, of course, safety procedures.

For the 1911 merit badge, the Scout had to “invent and patent some useful article” and “show a working drawing or model of the same.” Nowadays, the requirements are very, very long — and no patent is required.

The “firemanship” badge is “geared towards preparing the Scout to actually fight the fire and rescue people.” The modern badge — called “fire safety” — focuses on “how to prevent and escape fires.” Scouts learn “how to safely light a candle!”

Of course, today’s Scouts can earn merit badges in “Game Design (which involves playing and describing what you like about your favorite video games), Skating, Traffic Safety, Citizenship in the World (as opposed to just the nation), and Disability Awareness.”

California colleges will ask: Are you gay?

Are you gay? California state colleges and universities will ask students about their sexuality to decide on the need for services.

Also on Community College Spotlight: A dean argues that community college students should study the great books to prepare for higher education, careers and life.

The Ravi rethink

An 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers, Dharun Ravi bragged on Twitter about using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate and his male date, inviting friends to watch a second date. In a New Yorker story, Ravi comes across as immature, attention-seeking jerk, but not a homophobe. The roommate, Tyler Clementi, joked with a friend about a ”five sec peep,” unplugged Ravi’s computer to prevent spying and asked to switch rooms. Then he committed suicide.

Ravi now faces 10 years in prison and deportation to his native India. A New Jersey jury convicted him of invasion of privacy and “bias intimidation,” a hate crime. That’s prompted a mass rethink. Ten years?

Make the Punishment Fit the Cyber-Crime writes Emily Bazelon in a New York Times op-ed.

According to New Jersey’s civil rights law, you are subject to a much higher penalty if the jury finds that you committed one of a broad range of underlying offenses for the purpose of targeting someone because of his race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

The idea of shielding vulnerable groups is well intentioned. But with the nation on high alert over bullying — especially when it intersects with computer technology and the Internet — these civil rights statutes are being stretched to go after teenagers who acted meanly, but not violently. This isn’t what civil rights laws should be for.

It was a “hateless hate crime,” writes Jacob Sullum in Reason. “Before the trial the prosecutors offered him a deal that involved no jail time and a chance to avoid deportation, which suggests even they do not believe he should be punished as severely as a violent felon.”

I doubt the verdict will stand, if only because the defense wasn’t allowed to see Clementi’s suicide notes, which were judged “irrelevant.”  Ravi wasn’t charged with causing the suicide, but it was very relevant to the decision to charge him with a hate crime, not just invasion of privacy.

Teens need to know that cyberbullying is a crime, counters Gregg Weinlein, a retired teacher, in an Ed Week commentary.

Too often, teens flip off the word “bully” as childish, knowing that assailants today are much more vicious than the playground bullies of the previous century. Teenagers today must fend off the silent assassins of the digital age, who operate with phones and tablets and plant emotional land mines in social-networking sites. The harassment and text assaults perpetrated by some teenagers should have a criminal connotation if we are to see a shift in how older students perceive and understand this abusive behavior.

In this case, “criminal connotation” means prison and deportation.

Study: 3.5% are gay or bisexual

Only 1.7  percent of U.S. adults say they’re gay and another 1.8 percent identify as bisexual, according to a new study by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA.

Transgendered adults represent 0.3 percent of the population, estimates  demographer Gary Gates.

About 8.2 percent of adults have engaged in some form of same-sex behavior at least once, the study found.

Bully-free school is a civil right

After a wave of student suicides, the Obama administration is launching an anti-bullying campaign, warning educators that students’ civil rights may be violated by bullying and harassment. Punishing bullies may not be enough, wrote Russlyn Ali, assistant Education secretary for civil rights, in an advisory letter.

As an example, Ali noted in the advisory that a gay student might withdraw from school activities after being subjected to anti-gay slurs and other intimidation. If the school reprimands the perpetrators to stop the bullying, her advisory said, that would not necessarily be enough to ensure that students are free from harassment based on gender stereotypes.

“The school had an obligation to take immediate and effective action to eliminate the hostile environment,” Ali wrote.

As part of the It Gets Better project to persuade gay teens to keep going, President Obama made a video. “We’ve got to dispel this myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage,” Obama says.

In New Jersey,  a bipartisan coalition of legislators has introduced an “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights,” which would require more training on preventing bullying and stiffen reporting rules.

Last month, Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate set up a webcam and streamed online a gay sexual encounter in his dorm room.

Update: After a conversation with Russlyn Ali, who’s a friend, Rick Hess is concerned about implementation. Ali said the feds will move to “enforcement” only if local officials ignore a systemic problem.  He trusts her judgement, but . .  .

My uneasiness is that I know of far too many cases where overeager federal bureaucrats have turned reasonable processes into ludicrous exercises, and where knee-knocking state and local officials have responded by winding educators in a bubble wrap of infuriating, time-consuming requirements and process.

. . . I fear that the current Department is inclined to adopt an expansive view of its role. And I worry about teachers and school leaders getting wrapped in new rules, procedures, and processes designed primarily to keep the feds at bay.

Bullying and harassment are common on school campuses, if federal data are accurate. Hess wonders if we’ve “defined bullying down”  to include teasing.

We absolutely need to protect vulnerable youth from bullies and harassment. We need schools to be places where students are safe and able to learn.

But we need to appreciate “the difference between asking schools to combat harassment and expecting overburdened educators to bring peace on earth and good will among men.”


Liberty High bans taped-mouth protest

When is a silent protest too “distracting” for school? asks Greg at Rhymes With Right.

At the ironically named Liberty High in Virginia, administrators told students they couldn’t tape their mouths shut to protest abortion because it was a distraction.

In Tinker v. Des Moines, the U.S. Supreme Court said students had a First Amendment right to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. Greg asks:

Now tell me, how does tape over the mouth in any way rise to the standard set in this case — “substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others” — in light of the fact that the tape would be in no way more disruptive than the black armbands in Tinker?

This seems like a fairly clear violation of Tinker. It’s not uncommon for student protesters to tape their mouths. On the annual Day of Silence to protest harassment of gays, students often duct-tape their mouths.

Prom cancellation denied lesbian's rights

Spite bites back: When it canceled the high school prom to prevent a lesbian student from attending in a tuxedo with her girlfriend, a Mississippi school violated the student’s right to express her views, a federal court has ruled. However, the court didn’t order Itawamba Agricultural High School to reschedule the school prom because a “private” prom planned by parents is supposed to be open to all students.

Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, plans to attend the private prom. “Now we can all get back to things like picking out our prom night outfits and thinking about corsages.”

In the 12-page ruling, the court wrote that McMillen “intended to communicate a message by wearing a tuxedo and to express her identity through attending prom with a same-sex date.”

Teachers suspended for O.J. Simpson picture

Three Los Angeles teachers have been suspended for giving elementary students pictures of  O.J. Simpson, RuPaul and Dennis Rodman to carry in a Black History Month parade.

(A district spokeswoman) says the school held the parade Friday, with children from other classes carrying photos of black heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman and President Barack Obama.

The teachers are white. More than 90 percent of Wadsworth Elementary students are Hispanic.

It’s not “Black Hagiography Month, writes Joel Engel in LA Times Magazine. The parade signs have “sparked outrage from no less than Mayor Villaraigosa and district superintendent Ramon Cortines, who dispatched “a human relations and ethnic diversity team.”

Anyone who was sentient during the O.J. Simpson trial remembers how the former football great and not so great actor was embraced as a symbol of oppression by the black community — his acquittal celebrated by dancing in the streets. In fact, Mount Vernon Middle School was renamed the Johnnie L. Cochran Junior Middle School in honor of Simpson’s lead lawyer, who shot to fame by convincing the jury that Simpson was a victim.

If we’re being politically correct, why is a gay superstar as unworthy as an unconvicted murderer.  Is Rodman’s sexuality — he called himself “mentally bisexual” — unacceptable? What if a student had carried a picture of Bayard Rustin, the gay civil rights leader?

Common 'climate' standards?

Common Core standards will include standards for school climate “down the road,” said Kevin Jennings, head of the Department of Education”s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools in a Phi Delta Kappan interview. Jennings, founder of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), wants all students to be free from harassment and to “feel like they belong.”

If we don’t get this one right, the other (academic) ones don’t matter.

That’s a great way to politicize and ultimately destroy the common standards effort, writes Rick Hess, a fan of  “fewer, clearer and higher” standards.

Jennings raises further red flags when he concedes that we have not determined “the definition of school climate,” though he says it “does not include air conditioning” but does include kids feeling “emotionally safe.” Maybe it’s my cynical streak, but that sounds like a summons to social agendas, culture clashes, and political fisticuffs. In other words, the stuff that sinks standards.

Agreeing on common academic standards is going to be plenty tough enough without trying to define, measure and improve students’ emotional well-being.

Never mind, a DOE spokesman tells Robert Pondiscio.  Jennings “was taken out of context.”